Space Shifters Review - Hayward Gallery

26 September 2018 – 6 January 2019

Gallery closed on Tuesdays

Standard: £15

Student: £11.50

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This immersive exhibition Space Shifters is an experience of quietism and self-reflection. With Hayward Gallery itself being a landmark of brutalist statuary, this exhibition is a site-tailored exhibition bringing together sculptures and installations that examine the relationships between art and architecture, revealing the common ground between the disciples and showing us how contemporary art affects the way we feel about the spaces we inhabit daily.

“To many of these artists, the viewer’s experience and the act of perception was more important than anything else” – Hayward Gallery Senior Curator Dr. Cliff Lauson.

Installation view of Alicja Kwade's WeltenLinie, 2017 at Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery 2018. Photo: Mark Blower

Perceptual experience is interlaced in the movement of this exhibition; from the optical effects of the gallery’s lights in tandem with the industrial reflective materials of glass to engine oil, the sculptural score of the building is in constant exchange with the architecture of its installations.

Situated in the first exhibition room, two grand mirrored panels rotate at an angel dominating the ceiling and reflecting audience members below. The artwork suspends and mocks an inverted reflection of spectators and teases at opening up the artists landscape from a safe haven of private to public experience. Seeing fellow spectators’ reflections, you are harshly confronted with the interactive nature of the installation, you are confronted with art as a social space of shared exchange and symbolical warped solidarity. The disorientating experience of light and image suspends perceptionary discourse at heights too elevated to be controlled or depleted. You are left feeling as though the monopoly of the gallery is an organism of one and not many.

The dialogue between light and space draws you towards De Wain Valentine’s quietly dense monolithic columns and down to Antunes’ spiralling childlike geometric patterns of interlocking lengths of brass, hung from the gallery’s ceiling of outpouring light.

The site-specific work extrapolates elegance and floods the building in light and gleam. There is an overwhelming sense of submergence, as though everything tethered comes undone. As though everything cast in bronze or marble could be as soft as wool or oil. The whole building makes reality stop being obvious.

Interested in the way architecture influences our feelings of safety, a room is dedicated to prolific artist Yayoi Kusama who addresses her principle themes of ‘infinity, self-obliteration and compulsive repetition’ in her devastating consumption of space ‘Narcissus Garden’ forming a liquid landscape of shimmering self-reflective orbs. An earlier depiction of her work showcased this space with a sign that read: ‘Your Narcissism For sale’.

Reflective materials are then translated into tools of communication in Jeppe Hein’s ‘360° illusion V’, where art shifts from static to active. Hein’s work transitions from the comfortable and fixed to the restless and interrogative when moving mirrors taken in gentle travel by turning mechanisms and performance artists distort your reflection and force you to reconsider the simple beauty of the building and recognise the artist’s subversion of the existing architectural logic into something warped and exposed.

“You meet other people when you enter the mirror pieces. You are reflected, you see your own…you open up’ – Hein on his mirrored interactive installation ‘360° Illusion V (2018)’

Installation view of Jeppe Hein's 360° Illusion V, 2018 at Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery 2018. Photo: Mark Blower

In short, the exhibition is truly beautiful. There is constant tension between sight and belief. Helen Pashgian’s luminous columns show us the unsteady movement of optics – she writes that her personal fascination with light came from peering into a rock pool when she was young and first realising that ‘light was an alive thing’. Space Shifters is an exhibition of those very same ‘alive things’. The installations inundate us with the excess of kinetic experience without brute force. The strength and beauty of this exhibition comes not from the installations themselves but from the movement of spectators.

This collection is assembled with a precision that enriches exhibitors with the power of disillusioned perception. As we move through steel frames and golden beaded curtains, materials around us transform from the safe to the unanticipated. We are bought back to our bodies in Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ floor-to-ceiling threshold of gold curtains and simultaneously torn straight back to unsteady vertiginous heights in Richard Wilson’s ‘20:50’ by completely flooding the upper gallery in engine oil. Only a slim passage way is cut through the diagonal of the room, the dense substance mirroring the ceiling and creating an infinite loss of equilibrium as you look out over an expanse of unending subtraction. Simple shapes and materials blur our physical stability and move us throughout this exhibition, as Ann Veronica Janssens puts it, we are moved through mere shape and space alone ‘from one reality to another’.

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